What Is a CI/CD Pipeline?

Feb 27, 2023 | Best Practices, Programming, Test Automation Insights

ci/cd pipeline graphic

A continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline leverages automation to significantly decrease the time required for code development and delivery. By automating software testing and deployment, DevOps teams can shorten the time to market and reduce code errors.

In this article, we will discuss the key characteristics of an effective CI/CD pipeline, how to optimize the different stages in a CI/CD pipeline, and the value of test automation to improve productivity and increase ROI.

What Is a CI/CD Pipeline?

A CI/CD pipeline is the software development process that allows DevOps teams to continuously build, test, and deploy software builds and changes. By automating the CI/CD pipeline throughout the product development lifecycle, developers can create higher-quality code and do it faster.

Continuous Integration

The first stage of a CI/CD pipeline is continuous integration (CI). Developers integrate source code into a shared repository. This repository allows DevOps teams to ensure they are always working with the most current version of the code. Besides version control, teams can collaborate on development.

Each change to the code triggers an automated build and testing process to make sure any updates do not break the existing code base.

Continuous Delivery

Continuous delivery (CD) is the step in which code changes are tested and prepared for deployment. The overarching goal of CD is to make sure software is error-checked and ready for release. Developers and QA testers deploy manual and automated tests as changes are made.

Continuous Deployment

Continuous deployment is the next step in the CI/CD pipeline, where software is automatically deployed to production after passing QA and testing. Operations teams provide continuous deployment of code changes or updates, which can happen routinely.

Key Characteristics of an Effective CI/CD Pipeline

An effective CI/CD pipeline will be automated as much as possible so that each stage can be triggered automatically. This allows for a seamless, consistent, and repeatable process.

By providing rapid feedback to developers on code changes, DevOps teams can isolate environment variables that cause conflicts and make sure changes in one area do not cause problems in another. Continuous testing using automated test tools at each stage helps assure quality.

Effective CI/CD pipelines are flexible to manage different deployment scenarios, such as:

  • Blue-green deployments: Two identical production environments are used, one blue (active) and one green (idle).
  • Canary releases: Software is released to a small subset of users, then monitored for issues before general deployment.
  • Rollbacks: If deployments cause errors, they can be rolled back to previous versions to quickly address issues and minimize impact.

An effective CI/CD pipeline provides the framework for continuous improvement to optimize code, identify bottlenecks, and implement process improvements to make the pipeline more efficient over time.

Advantages of CI/CD Pipelines

The advantages of an efficient CI/CD pipeline include:

  • Faster development cycles, faster code to production, and faster time to market
  • Increased agility and adaptability to changing requirements
  • Improved quality using automated testing and CI principles to catch manual errors earlier in the development process
  • A consistent and repeatable process to build, test, and deploy software changes that are reliable and predictable
  • More rapid feedback, allowing developers to identify and fix any issues that arise

Ci/CD pipelines also ease collaboration between development, testing, and operation teams, driving better communication and a more efficient overall development process. 

Best Practices for CI/CD Pipeline Stages

The most successful DevOps practice key strategies throughout integration, development, and deployment. Here are some of the best practices for each of the CI/CD pipeline stages.

Code (Source) Stage

At the code stage, best practices include:

  • Strict version control to manage code changes
  • Deploying a branching strategy to manage changes and ensure proper tracking and documentation for code quality
  • Enabling a source code review process to make sure changes meet quality standards and any issues are caught as early as possible in the development process

Build Stage

Best practices in the build stage include:

  • Automating the process of compiling and packaging the code
  • Ensuring the build process is repeatable and scalable for consistent output
  • Using a build artifact repository to make them easily accessible

Test Stage

The test stage focuses on confirming software quality in the production environment. Automated testing at each stage of the CI/CD pipeline is crucial to be certain that changes to the code are thoroughly tested and meet quality standards. Best practices include:

  • Deploying automated testing tools wherever possible to reduce errors and accelerate testing
  • Ensuring the test environment is as close to the production environment as possible to minimize risk in production
  • Using unit tests, user interface (UI) tests, integration tests, performance tests, and CI/CD pipeline security tests to make sure code passes requirements

Automated tests save time by catching small issues closer to the source, making them easier to fix before additional changes are built on top of issues. Automation also frees up developers’ time and eases fatigue and frustration by reducing manual testing.

At the same time, test automation can significantly reduce technical debt.

Deployment Stage

Best practices in the deployment stage include:

  • Using automation to deploy applications to the target environment
  • Monitoring deployment to ensure success and catch any issues that were missed
  • Using rollbacks when issues arise to quickly address concerns

Rely on Test Automation Tools To Help Your Development Team Succeed

Customers today demand fast, secure, and flawless code applications. Automated testing tools, embedded into the production process, can eliminate the need for much of the manual testing to accelerate time to market.

Automating unit tests, for example, ensures that code objects are not relying on other functional modules or external code to operate properly. By breaking the source code down into objects for testing, developers have the flexibility to make changes without affecting other application operations.

That’s just one example. Automated testing in CI/CD pipeline tools can handle several different types of tests, such as:

  • Keyword-driven testing
  • Integration testing
  • Unit testing
  • Smoke testing
  • Regression testing
  • Performance testing
  • Security testing
  • Data-driven testing
  • CI/CD pipeline security

Ranorex’s test automation software tools are used by DevOps teams to automate manual testing to accelerate product launches and save money on testing. Ranorex Studio test automation integrates with your CI/CD pipeline to streamline builds in an all-in-one solution.

Get an instant demo of Ranorex automated testing tools or a free trial of Ranorex Studio today.

Related Posts:

What Is Automation Testing?

What Is Automation Testing?

Test automation provides convenience and reliability to your software testing process. Learn more about how Ranorex Studio supports automated testing.

The Future of Artificial Intelligence in Test Automation

The Future of Artificial Intelligence in Test Automation

As technology continues to advance at an unprecedented rate, artificial intelligence (AI) is emerging as a transformative force across many industries. AI promises to revolutionize test automation. The end result? A more efficient, accurate, and reliable test...

Support Corner: API Testing with Ranorex Studio and a GET Request

Support Corner: API Testing with Ranorex Studio and a GET Request

Ranorex is a powerful no-code tool that automates web, mobile, and desktop application testing. In addition to the powerful no-code recording, you can utilize the Ranorex API to create code modules in C# or VB.NET. That’s beneficial because it can increase the...